It was midway through the 2002-03 season and the Sarnia Sting were on a road trip. Rookie goalie Ryan Munce remembers sitting at the desk in his hotel room and scrawling a note. He had just been bullied and abused, again, by his veteran teammates and was jotting down some of his thoughts and emotions. It was then that he admitted he was suicidal.
At that moment, the same veterans barged into his hotel room and grabbed the note from him. Not long after, Munce found the note crumpled up and shoved under his door. It was never mentioned again, not by his teammates and not by Munce.
“I’m pretty sure that if I saw a kid who was writing suicidal thoughts, I’d probably bring that to the attention of the coach, probably bring it to the attention of the team, probably talk to him about it,” Munce said. “Instead it was just like, ‘Ah, f--- it, who cares?”
It’s impossible to know how many players will register for the class action lawsuit launched by former junior players Dan Carcillo and Garrett Taylor against the Canadian Hockey League, but Munce has said he will definitely be adding his name to it. As reported Thursday by TheHockeyNews.com, a class action lawsuit has been filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleging that major junior players aged 15 to 17 were, “routinely victims to hazing, bullying, physical and verbal harassment, physical assault, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.”
The allegations made by Carcillo, in particular, are jarring and disturbing. And as they were dissected one-by-one, Munce corroborated each one. He also provided several other examples.
* In the statement of claim, Carcillo alleges that during showers, rookies were required sit in the middle of the shower room naked while the older players urinated, spat saliva and tobacco chew on them. At least once, the lawsuit alleges, head coach Jeff Perry walked into the shower room while this was occurring, laughed and walked out. “It wasn’t just that,” Munce said. “We all sat completely naked wrapped around each person in front of us, like a canoe, and we were supposed to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat as they sprayed aerosol cans on our shoulders to try to make them burn.”
* The lawsuit alleges rookies were repetitively hit on their bare buttocks with a sawed off goalie stick, developing large welts and open sores. The injuries were so bad that they couldn’t sit down, even while attending local high school classes. They advised team staff of this abuse, which did not stop. “Then they put holes in (the stick) to make it faster,” Munce said. “If you got hit with it and flinched, you got hit again. You could actually see on guys’ butts the air holes that were put on the paddle from where it hit.”
* The lawsuit also alleges that on road trips, rookies would be stripped naked and sent into the bus bathroom, eight at a time. The older players would tape the boys’ clothes up in a ball, which were thrown into the bathroom. The boys were not allowed out until they were dressed, which could take hours. Older players would pour chew, saliva, and urine on them through the bathroom vents. This was once a common practice with junior hockey teams and has been known as ‘the hot box.’ “That has been happening forever,” Munce said, “and no one has ever said, ‘This is a bad thing?’ ”
* Carcillo alleged in the lawsuit that rookies had to bob for apples in a cooler filled with the older players’ urine, saliva and other bodily fluids. Munce corroborated this.
* It is also alleged an instance where a naked rookie was taped to a table with his buttocks in the air. Older players were whipping him with a belt. It is alleged Perry took part, whipped the child and laughed while the boy cried. “(The players) came up with a thing they called Rookie of the Day and they drew names out of a hat,” Munce said. “I came in from school one day and saw (the player) taped to the table and they were going to town on him with whatever they had…belts, things like that.”
* Munce also said at one point that season, a Jewish teammate was taunted by one of the members on the team who put black tape on his upper lip and did an impersonation of Adolph Hitler. He also said there were often incidents of racism on that team. “Guys would drop the N-word like it was nothing,” Munce said.
TheHockeyNews.com got in touch with another player on the Sting from that season, a veteran player who did not take part in the hazing rituals, and he also corroborated everything Carcillo alleged. “I didn’t see anything that he said that wasn’t true,” said the player, who requested anonymity. “I just wish I had done more to stop it.”
TheHockeyNews.com has attempted to reach Perry, who is now an assistant coach with the Moorestown Flags Jr. C team just south of Sarnia, and repeated calls were not returned. THN.com also attempted to speak with former assistant coach Greg Walters, now the head coach of the Oshawa Generals, and OHL commissioner David Branch, but calls were not returned.
Perry was fired by the Sting after the 2003-04 season for what team officials termed, “non-hockey issues.” He was hired the next season as an assistant coach of the London Knights for one year, then coached Jr. B hockey and later minor hockey in Sarnia. Mooretown Flags GM John Baker said he has seen no signs of that kind of behavior with Perry in the two years he has been an assistant coach with the team. “The position of our organization since Day 1 is that we have nothing that we see directly in our organization with Jeff being involved," Baker said. "The kids like him. He’s really good with the kids and his skill as a coach, what he brings to the table, is exceptional. I mean, he has coached at the AHL level and OHL level and you don’t get that very often in Jr. C hockey.
“I don’t know what went on 15 years ago and we’re not going to judge anybody based on that,” Baker continued. “From what we see, we don’t see any of that occurring. If there’s been a change, there’s been a change. And if it never happened, it never happened. That’s not for us to deal with."
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